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The Power of Networking

Whether you are unemployed and actively job searching or employed and looking to increase the number – and depth – of your professional connections, networking is key. But networking has changed a lot over the last several months.

Instead of meeting in person with a recruiter to discuss career prospects or inviting a professional connection to coffee to learn more about the projects they have been working on, everything is now virtual.

So how do you plan on making meaningful connections with those in a position to help you advance your career – despite the COVID-19 pandemic? The answer, of course, lies in networking.

 

Getting Started: Tips to Networking Successfully Online

Most networking today, especially given social distancing guidelines and other restrictions, takes place on LinkedIn. But before reaching out to expand your network, there are a handful of things you should do first, including:

  • Clean up your social media presence. In addition to LinkedIn, when you connect with someone online, they may end up running a quick Google search to find out more about you. This is especially true if you are reaching out and connecting with a recruiter. Control what you can control by cleaning up all of your social media profiles. Assume that if it’s online, someone – personal, professional or otherwise – will be able to find it.

     

  • Complete your profile. Before reaching out to establish a professional connection with someone on LinkedIn, make sure your profile is complete. This includes filling out the basics of a LinkedIn profile, including the headline, about section, work experience and education, not to mention having a profile picture uploaded. Because most people are working from home right now, LinkedIn activity and content consumption in general has increased. Now is a great time to make professional connections, but make sure you are doing so with an optimized profile that entices people to want to accept your connection request and engage with you.

     

  • Become a fan. No matter who you are reaching out to, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about the company they work for. Consider following the LinkedIn company page, following the company handle on Twitter and/or Instagram and liking the company page on Facebook. You don’t have to do all of these of course, but companies will typically post different types of content on each platform. The nature of the connection you are looking to make will ultimately determine which platform(s) you should interact with.

     

  • Join groups. LinkedIn groups are a great way to make meaningful connections with professionals in the same or a similar field as you. You will likely be able to identify people who would be good to network with based on conversation threads or content they share within the group. These reach outs also tend to be a little warmer, too, because instead of saying something generic, like “I came across your LinkedIn profile and I’d like to add you to my professional network,” you can say something like, “I am also a member of the [Insert Group Name] group on LinkedIn. I’d love to connect with you to discuss [Insert Professional Topic].”

 

Optimizing Digital Networking Opportunities

There are two general rules to follow when networking:

1. Make it part of your professional routine

2. Make it about the other person.

A big mistake most people make when it comes to networking is that they do it sporadically and when they do network, they make it all about themselves. Instead of approaching a networking opportunity with your agenda leading the conversation, consider asking what you can do for your new connection. If you are networking with a recruiter, for instance, instead of making the conversation only about you and your job search, consider offering to connect the recruiter to past colleagues you’d recommend who have complimentary skills to yourself. Or, recommending a LinkedIn group they would benefit from joining. Flip the script and watch how much further your networking efforts go.

When making a new connection, it’s also important to make the initial request clear and personal. LinkedIn did away with the pre-drafted messages when reaching out to a new connection. But instead of replacing it with something more personal, most are opting to not send a note at all. Don’t do this. Send a quick note (300 characters or less is the limit) explaining why you would like to connect. Not unlike when you meet someone in person for the first time, this short note is your first impression. Keep it concise and genuine and give it purpose.

As you build your network, you should be posting updates and sharing relevant professional content. Don’t just be a consumer, be a contributor to your network. If, after sending an initial connection request and follow-up message, a new connection does not respond, the content you post to your general feed can resurface your profile for that contact, creating the important top of mind awareness that can be difficult to come by in a crowded and busy digital world.

 

Looking to Build Your Network? Start First with a Recruiter

Recruiters are the ultimate networkers. And, connecting with a recruiter, whether you are actively job searching or not, means getting to see networking best practices firsthand. Not only will you be privy to the content they are posting, but making a recruiter connection means getting access to an individual who:

  • Provides honest feedback – a recruiter’s job is to position you in the best way possible, which often means providing critical feedback and serving as a personal coach
  • Has relationships with companies and hiring managers – if your goal is to learn more about the market and opportunities in it, a recruiter has connections and information you can’t find anywhere else
  • Is specialized – not all recruiters are specialized, but if you reach out to a recruiter who is specialized, he or she will know your industry and the market inside and out
  • Acts on your behalf – another really great quality about recruiter connections is that they are motivated to make introductions on your behalf; you won’t find a better networker willing to work for you than a recruiter

 

Closing Thoughts

If nothing else, COVID-19 has brought people together in some really inspiring ways. We all have this shared experience we can relate to, which is why now is a great time to be making meaningful, personal connections with other hardworking professionals. Network with purpose and offer yourself up as a resource during these challenging – and changing – times.

Who will you get to know during this pandemic? Who will you meet while the world was put on pause? Find those connections and keep building your tribe.

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